The West Siberian Laika, also Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka' or WSL, is a breed of hunting dog developed by the indigenous people of Northern Ural and West Siberia. They used Laikas mostly for treeing squirrels and hunting small predators with valuable fur.
Communism in Russia destroyed the traditional way of life of these people and brought them and their hunting dogs to the brink of extinction. Industrialization in Siberia introduced many new breeds of dogs to this region. Crossbreeding with them completely wiped out the last remains of pure bred indigenous Laikas. Many Russian hunters from big cities such as Sverdlovsk and Moscow were aware of this process. They tried to save the last exemplars of Laikas. The first attempts to establish the West Siberians as a modern hunting breed was made in the 1920s. Two types of dogs: the Mansi Laikas, which had light bones and a narrow elongated head; and the so called Hanti Laikas with a powerfully built body and a shorter head, lay the foundations for the new breed. In the beginning of the 1930s and later the Soviet government began to establish Kennels and Clubs concerning the preservation and repopulating of Laikas to their previous regions. In 1947 the West Siberian Laika was officially recognized as a new Soviet breed.
The West Siberian Laika is a large size dog, with males should stand 54 to 60 centimetres (21 to 24 in) at the shoulder and females 52 to 58 centimetres (20 to 23 in). The head is triangular in shape and has little to no stop, with the pricked, triangular ears set high on the skull. The body is broad and strong with pronounced withers and a well-developed chest. The tail is carried over the back in a tight curl.
The West Siberian Laika has a thick "double coat", consisting of a coarse outercoat guarding the dense undercoat which gives the breed some feathering on the cheeks, neck, withers, shoulders and haunch. White, black salt-and-pepper, red and gray shades are all accepted colours, displayed as a solid pattern or as a particolour
Properly raised and trained West Siberians make a tight bond with their masters and never lose contact with them in the forest or in the field. West Siberians are poor guardians at home or for domestic stock. On the other hand, during hunting big and dangerous game they are capable of protecting their human partners to the bitter end.
The West Siberian Laika is a highly active dog. They are also highly territorial and aggressive with other dogs, and so West Siberian Laikas cannot be kept properly in huge kennels
The Russian Standards for West Siberian Laikas changed several times/1947-1966 -1979-etc./.
Pure bred West Siberians are not so nervous or easily excited as other breeds of Hunting Laikas. They display such a brave, cool, and calculating type of behavior even in the most dangerous situations. It comes as a package along with the ability to work on big game and to track very old, "cold" tracks.
Many dogs imported from Kazakhstan show a brown coat or brown markings on the coat. They show such a fault as a result of crossbreeding with German Shepherds and other breeds. Black, or black and white West Siberian Laikas, frequently appear in litters and are considered by old descriptions of indigenous Laikas as purebred. These colors are unwanted today, because of its associations with the other Russian Laika—the so called Russo-Europeans—that have exactly the same color. The real difference between those two breeds is in the shape of the body and head, and in the character and temperament of the West Siberian Laika.
Originally, West Siberian Laikas were dogs kept only by professional hunters. They can work as versatility dogs, but their strength is in their ability to specialize on one type of game only. Professional hunters want their dog to be focused on the game with the most valuable fur. Laikas working on sable and pine marten were, and still are, the most valuable. Such selection is fully understandable; in the nineteenth century the money from one silver-black sable pelt supported a family of four for a year. Because of this, the dogs that worked on every kind of game were killed or kept out of breeding. West Siberians are the last breed of hunting Laikas that still preserve this pro ability in their genes. This is what really differentiates them from other Hunting Laikas and makes them so unique. They are capable of specializing on one game only and master hunting it to perfection. Today, careful training is paramount for a West Siberian Laika to perform at its best. Depending on how it is trained, a West Siberian Laika has the ability to hunt small animals such as squirrels, pine marten, or sable, or big game such as moose, bear, or wild boar. Some hunters prefer training their West Siberians for birds, such as capercaillies, pheasants, or waterfowl
Hot climate is a problem for West Siberians imported directly from North Eurasia. When a litter is born in the USA, the chances for adapting to local temperatures, even in Florida, are better. West Siberians are selected for hunting and they live for it. Two of them (usually male and female partners) are a good combination for hunting and breeding. The best way of bonding with a WSL is to raise and train it alone in an environment free of other dogs.
The introduction of this breed to the USA had a stormy beginning. Cheap crossbreeds named Laikoids were imported here, and kennels of "industrial" magnitude were established for making fast money. With the economical changes in Russia, West Siberian Laikas lost their popularity there. Pro hunting is a dying profession and the new Russian Elite prefers "prestige" breeds of dogs imported from abroad. Luckily, American Hunters discovered the true potential of this breed and have recently imported some pure bred West Siberians to the US. Chances for this breed to prosper in America are good. More than 200 hunters in Alaska, Canada, and the Continental United States use this type of dogs today. They became an important - American part of the huge family of Chasing, Hunting, Sledding, and Herding.